In celebration of Zinfandel month, Chef Sandra Smile created this recipe to pair with the 2010 Hillside Zinfandel. I have to say, this recipe is the BOMB! Having just returned from France, I didn’t have a chance to make it before I left, so I squeezed it in between dropping kids off at swim practice. I was a little intimidated by the recipe at first, but having made it once, I would make this again and again, and it was easy!
I started off by making the making the mid-eastern spice mix. The kitchen smelled wonderful as all these spices were opened and mixed together. I luckily had all the spices but the cardamon in the pantry. My recommendation if you find yourself lacking cardamom, find a friend and borrow a tablespoon! I really loved the aroma of the spices when combined. Cumin has such a particular smell, but it is complimented nicely by the sweeter characteristics of the cloves, all-spice and cinnamon.
The next step was making the meatballs. I found with this recipe it was especially helpful to prepare all your ingredients before starting the directions. I was able to use almost all fresh ingredients including the red onion, thyme, parsley and eggs. I did have to hit the market for the ground lamb and bread. The first step in the recipe is the cut the bread into 1/2 inch cubes. I think I cut mine a little too big and next time would make them smaller, and I wouldn’t buy fresh french bread (it was on sale). Just a regular sliced sandwich bread should do the trick. Combining all the ingredients was gooey, but the meatballs were easy to assemble.
Next step, cooking the meatballs. This can be a bit intimidating, especially when the recipe says to make sure not to overcook them. But over medium heat, I found they cooked up easily, and I simply cut into one to make sure it was done. Because our timing was all off, I set the meatballs aside while I made the sauce, and then let both the sauce and meatballs sit while we waited for everyone to get home for dinner.
Once the meatballs are cooked through, you are home free as the sauce and couscous are easy to prepare. Although the recipe calls for normal couscous, I prefer Israeli couscous because it is a little more like pasta. We find it at Trader Joes, but I think it is available at many grocery stores now.
Now to the pairing. “Exceptional” really is too boring a word to use! The pairing of the meatballs and the 2010 Hillside Zinfandel is one of the nicest we’ve had in a long time. The rustic edge to this young Zin is tamed immediately with the introduction of the Mediterranean spices, making the wine wonderfully soft and alluring. The hint of heat in the spices, likewise, is framed by the fresh fruit of the Zin, containing the whole package in one seamless flavor. For those interested in expanding their wine/food knowledge, this is a must-have experience.
We hope you enjoy it as much as we have!